Tag Archives: food tours

Eating with the Princess: Hackney

I have been eating my way around London in the last few months. I’ve been down for research and to attend the Princess’s graduation and when my sister and I are together, we eat. It is our thing. When our parents join us, we continue to eat but with slightly better budgets. This is the first of a photo collection series of our eating adventures together. I’m starting in Hackney, where we spent a Saturday wandering purposely from food place to food place back in March (before we took the train back to Soho in pursuit of gelato).

We started our Hackney adventure at London Borough of Jam where we bought jam (for reals), and doughnuts. The doughnuts were filled with peach and saffron jam that was to die for. I recently made a vanilla cake filled with the blackberry and bayleaf jam I bought from here and it was superb (recipe coming soon).

Then we walked to Violet Bakery where we ate first lunch (avocado toast, and a divine ham and Comté quiche) and then cake. Violet is just as awesome as I imagined, and the kitchen space is much tinier than I ever thought possible. I’ve baked a ridiculous amount from Claire’s book in recent months too.

We wandered through Broadway Market, perusing all the goods, and popping into several bookshops along the way, and then wandered on to Hackney City Farm, because you know me, I love a city farm. I have never spent time in Hackney or the surrounding areas, but I enjoyed how it felt like a village.

We ended the day getting ice cream (not in Hackney) at Gelupo in Soho. Pistachio gelato that doesn’t taste of almond essence for the win.

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Stonebridge City Farm (and a Sunday reading list)

It has been a fair while since I posted anything that did not contain a recipe. In the last few years, consciously I think, I have focussed on the desserts and cakes side of things of this blog. But I also wanted this blog to be a place for sharing inspirational food trips – festivals, gardens, and city farms – and so for the next few Sundays I thought I would share some of my recent favourites. Some of these are places I have been to before (and blogged about) and I am now sharing them with others (with my mom – who I have been hanging out with this past week – and with Andrés, who gets my obsession with all things food-related). Some of these, like today, are new places that I haven’t been before.

I also thought I’d start to share some of the things I’ve been reading recently because I have been reading much in my post-hand-in month. (There has been a lot of trashy, quite disappointing fiction, but we won’t talk about that – if anyone has any really good trashy fiction, please let me know!)

But to begin, Stonebridge City Farm.

Stonebridge is located in the heart of St. Ann’s in Nottingham. It is a stone’s throw from the city centre but you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into the countryside. It is a quiet (apart from many, very enthusiastic, children) and peaceful. The gardens are a wondrous, excessive maze – around every turn there is a leap of delight at the discovery of a tomato plant, say, growing amongst the blackberries; or a bed of courgettes, awash with yellow flowers. The sunflowers are of remarkable size, shades of yellow, orange and deep red. There is a pond (beware! deep water! the signs warn) full of frogs (we had to take their word for this – we saw none). And there is a motley crew of animals to wonder at – ducks, chickens, quail, rabbits and guinea pigs, goats, sheep, several very large pigs, some ponies and two Dexters.

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We visited on a sunny Friday afternoon at the beginning of the school holidays and relished basking in the sunshine. We were as enthusiastic, I think, as the children and just as wonder-filled. The size of the sunflowers filled me with awe and Andrés tried to make friends with one of the cows.

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I do love a city farm and have resolved to visit more often. There is nothing I like more than being outside in the sunshine, especially after so many months cooped up at my desk. They have fantastic plant specials too (if you need an incentive other than tiny animals and flowers to visit)!

Sunday Reading List:
I found a copy of How to Feed Your Friends with Relish yesterday in my local Oxfam bookshop (I love second-hand bookshops) and I started reading it last night. It reminded me of two things: I don’t cook enough anymore generally (and when I do I am terribly boring and repetitive) and I absolutely need to cook for friends more often.

Speaking of cooking for others, when I was with my mom this last week, we spent a morning foraging (my mothers term for wandering aimlessly whilst also quietly shopping) in Bakewell. She was not enamoured with Bakewell puddings or tarts (but did love the town itself). We found a lovely second-hand bookshop where the cookbooks were on a 2-for-1 offer. Obviously I found two – A Taste of Relais and Chateaux: 97 Recipes from Some of the Finest Chefs in the UK and Ireland and Desserts: A Lifelong Passion by Michel Roux. They’re both wonderful but I love love love the dessert book, not only because the food styling is so fantastically dated but because it has a recipe for a pistachio creme brûlée. So now I have to invite some people for dinner so I can make it.

I’ve also just started reading H is for Hawk. I love nature writing and reading it reminded me of two other books that I love – in fact, my mom and I had one of those conversations where I said “this reminds me of that book. You know that one? With the blue green cover? The woman writes about the wilds of Scotland.” And my mom went, “oh yes. We’ve all read that. I’ve passed it around the family. What is it called?” Neither of us could remember at the time but they are Sightlines and Findings by Kathleen Jamie. Her writing invokes the wild drama and feelings of space and openness that I love about the Scottish islands. Just remembering those books generated in me a longing to visit. Read them if you can. For wildness.

I’ve also been listening to many many podcasts. I am now subscribed to Freakanomics, This American Life, the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme, Monocle’s The Menu, and The New York Public Library Podcast (Diane von Furstenberg’s interview made me want to buy one of her wrap dresses). But my favourite by far is Krista Tippett’s On Being. I love the way she draws out stories, and the people being interviewed are just fascinating. I love hearing about what people do in this world – I mean this week, she talks to Katy Payne, who spent years listening to whales and was among the first scientists to realise whales compose songs.

Lastly, Brain Pickings. I’ve linked to Maria’s site before but she continues to provide thought-provoking writing (I subscribe to the newsletter and spend lazy Sunday mornings reading it before getting up). I was particularly interested in this week’s writing on leisure – the idea that our culture has become workaholic (what Maria terms “productivity-fetishism”) and the need to think about leisure as an opportunity for “unburdened contemplation”. I love that idea and as I move towards assembling my life post-PhD, I want to hold it in my mind’s eye and remind myself of the need for silence and reflection.

Until next time.

Le Marais Walking Tour

On Sunday morning we participated in a food walking tour of Le Marais (the district where we stayed). I did a very successful walking tour in New York and I was hoping that this one in Paris would be equally good. It was a bit hit and miss – some parts were great but there wasn’t enough information for me. I wanted to know more about the history of the market we visited, more about the producers and production methods, more about the history of the area and how it’s changed and I wouldn’t have minded tasting more food.

There is so much food history and culture in France that I was really expecting to be overwhelmed with information but sadly, I was not. (Plus it was uber expensive!) Still, I visited parts of the district that I wouldn’t have gone to on my own and sampled various wonderful products and found the most insanely amazing pastry shop in the history of the world.

We started off at a local boulangerie which had the most fantastic tiles on the outside of the shop. Our guide explained about baguettes and the different types and qualities. This is a local bakery, nothing fancy, but the bread was fabulous. Still warm, fragrant, crackling as you tore off a piece (I’m always reminded of that scene in Ratatouille when Colette shows Linguini about the sound of good bread). The traditional baguette is made with only four ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt. As we tasted outside the shop you could hear the machines working in the back and smell the doughs rising.

From there we walked to the market at the Place de la Bastille. This is an extremely large market selling not just food but shoes, clothes, bags. A kind of buy-everything-in-one-place kind of market which are apparently fairly common in small towns where there aren’t many stores. We sampled various cheeses, foie gras, spoke with some producers (the man selling salt was very entertaining) and oohed and aahed over various fruits and vegetables that aren’t common in South Africa.

I just love the different colours of honey
Beautiful tomatoes

Courgette flowers
Salted caramels sold with extra salt in the bag, just in case

After purchasing various products in the market we headed to a quiet square to sample all the produce.

We then visited two pastry shops. At the first we sampled waffles, one filled with vanilla cream and  another with pistachio and cherry cream. The displays made me want to purchase everything immediately.

Finally we went to Jacques Genin. Visiting this pastry shop is rather like visiting a library or church. We spoke in whispers, everything was quiet, almost revered – it was like a sanctuary for pastry. We sampled mango caramels that liquefied almost as soon as they touched your tongue, coriander chocolate, tonka bean chocolate and fresh mint chocolate, pâte de fruit, a caramel eclair, a lemon tart and finally, a raspberry tart where each raspberry was filled with coulis. We returned to the shop after the tour ended to buy more caramels (they’re truly amazing) and a St. Honore. We ate the St. Honore for dessert that evening. It’s puff pastry base was crispy and crunchy, each profiterole was filled with something different (custard, caramel, chocolate) and then the pastry cream and crème Chantilly just about finished us off. The tour was fun but I wouldn’t pay that much again, not unless I got to see behind the scenes in some places or spoke more with the producers or there was much for information about the history of the places we went.
  

Chelsea Market and the Meatpacking District

On my first day in New York I organized to do a food walking tour of Chelsea Market and the Meatpacking District. I hadn’t been or known about Chelsea Market on my last visit to the city but it’s a fascinating place. The market is on the ground floor of what used to be the NABISCO factory – where they invented the Oreo. It’s all industrial chic with exposed pipes and brick work and the shops are exclusive bakeries/food shops/delis/supply stores that can easily break your will power and budget.

We started at Eleni’s bakery for a sampling of a red velvet cupcake. I love the biscuit dress in the window and the themed boxes of biscuits but at $65 a box, these were not in my budget! The cupcake was lovely, the icing smooth and creamy. It was bite-size which was good because we ate continuously for about three hours!

We then wandered through to watch the bakers of Amy’s Bread. The kitchens are all glass windows so you can see people at work, making the delicious goods on offer. This is an industrial operation with racks and racks of dough in various stages of proofing, baking,  and cooling. Very impressive. Whilst we watched we sampled chocolate milk from Ronnybrook Dairies.

Next it was into the fishmonger for a sample of lobster bisque…

Before a feast of Italian deli favourites – olives, cheese, cured meats, breads – where I saw these awesome marzipan fruits!

I was tempted to buy half of the shop at Chelsea Market Baskets. Dulce de leche from Argentina, Island Bakery cookies from the Isle of Mull (I got super excited when I saw these as I love this bakery), weird bacon sweets, chocolate gummy bears.

I particularly like this idea of bacon inside the pancakes!
I loved these Sesame Street cupcakes.

Then it as out onto the High Line. The High Line is now a fantastic green space but I’ll talk more about it later in the week. This is just a taster…

Finally, we wandered through the Meatpacking District for one last sampling of oxtail pasta. I like the slightly gritty feel of this district. Despite it’s gentrification over the last few years, it still feels slightly harder and more intense in parts. By the time the tour was over I was full to the brim and ready for a long walk to recover.